The Gong Show may not have been the first televised amateur show, but it was definitely the most extreme. Literally anyone who was willing to face the shame of being ‘gonged’ could step up to the Gong Show stage and present their often-disputable talents to millions of viewers across the country. The result was a cavalcade of some of the most uniquely bizarre entertainment ever televised, as The Gong Show carved out its own personal niche in television history.
Chuck Barris, a veteran television producer whose credits included The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game, was the brains behind The Gong Show, co-creating the show and functioning as the emcee. The acts he presented were judged on a scale of one to ten by a trio of celebrity judges. The finalists would be rounded up at the end of the show and the audience would pick a winner via the ‘Applause-O-Meter.’
If the judges didn’t like what they saw, they could pick up a padded mallet and hit a large gong stationed behind their podium to unceremoniously curtail the act they didn’t like. This often led to chaos when two of the judges disagreed over what constituted a ‘gong-able’ act, wrestling with each other as one tried to prevent the other from gonging a contestant. Occasionally the acts were so wacky that they would all be gonged, and the show ended with no winners.
Comedians were often regulars on the judge panel, the most notable ones being Jaye P. Morgan, Arte Johnson, Rip Taylor (later to host another Barris creation, The $1.98 Beauty Show), and Jamie Farr. Other panelists included celebrities as diverse as film critic Rex Reed, columnist Dr. Joyce Brothers and musician Paul Williams. Another notable regular on the show was Gene Gene The Dancing Machine, a stagehand who danced spasmodically across the stage until pelted with various objects by the show’s panelists. There was also the Unknown Comic, a whacked-out stand-up comedian who told jokes of the lowest class while wearing a paper bag on his head.
These guests were enticing attractions, but the true heart of The Gong Show was the array of unusual talents that passed across the stage. Though this group of people was often rumored to consist of out-of-work actors, there were also plenty of true-blue oddities that did all sorts of crazy things to stake their claim to fame. The various “entertainers” included a girl who whistled through her nose, a dentist who played “The Star Spangled Banner” with his drill, and dogs that musically barked their way through a song. A recurring contestant theme was overweight ladies who performed their acts while wearing skimpy costumes, a category that included singers, dancers, and even strippers.
The end result of all this comedic chaos was a fascinating show that captured American pop culture at its most extreme. It became an instant hit when it reached the daytime airwaves in 1976, and it later moved to nighttime syndication, where it stayed on the air well into 1980. It also inspired a film, The Gong Show Movie, which was written and directed by Barris himself.
Since then, the show has continued to stun viewers around the world both in rerun form and through a short-lived 1988 revival with new host Don Bleu. Many viewers may argue over the show’s merits, but there is one thing that no one can deny: The Gong Show was, is, and always will be one of the most memorable television shows of all time.
USA / NBC – Syndication x25 minute episodes / Broadcast 14 June 1976 – 21 July 1978 on NBC and then until 1980 in Syndication and 1988 in Syndication.
Chuck Barris as Host
Della Barris as Substitute Assistant
Gary Owens as Host (syndicated version, 1976-77)
Jaye P. Morgan as Panelist
Milton Delugg as Leader of the Band with the Thug
Gene Patton as Gene Gene the Dancing Machine!
Jerry Maren as Confetti Thrower (1976)
Larry Spencer as Larry/The Evil Villain
Sivi Aberg as Assistant
Marlana Clark as Substitute Assistant
Carol Connors as Substitute Assistant
Phyllis Diller as Panelist
Jamie Farr as Panelist
Jill Freeman as Substitute Assistant
Johnny Jacobs as Announcer
Arte Johnson as Panelist
Murray Langston as The Unknown Comic (uncredited)
David Letterman as Panelist
Julie McCray as Substitute Assistant
Rex Reed as Panelist
Clochmerle (BBC-2 1972, Cyril Cusack, Roy Dotrice)
Period sitcom, based on a novel by Gabriel Chevallier that was adapted by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, that saw the French villagers of Clochmerle kick up a fuss over plans to install a new toilet.
CYRIL CUSACK as Major Piechut
ROY DOTRICE as Ponosse
KENNETH GRIFFITH as Ernest Tafardel
WENDY HILLER as Justine Putet
HUGH GRIFFITH as Alexandre Bourdillat
BERNARD BRESSLAW as Nicholas the Beadle
MADELINE SMITH as Hortase Girodet
GEORGINA MOON as Rose Biraque
PETER USTINOV as Narrator
Writers: Ray Galton, Alan Simpson
Novel: Gabriel Chevallier
Producer: Michael Mills
Network and Production Companies: BBC Two – Bavaria
Duration: 9×30 minute episodes
Aired From: 18 February – 14 April 1972 Fridays at 10.05pm
Clairvoyant, The (BBC-2 1986, Roy Kinnear, Sandra Dickinson)
In Roy Clarke penned sitcom The Clairvoyant used car salesman Arnold Bristow is knocked down in a car accident and suddenly finds himself with psychic powers – or so he believes. There was a pilot broadcast 27 Nov 1984.
ROY KINNEAR as Arnold Bristow
SANDRA DICKINSON as Lily
HUGH LLOYD as Burma
SHAUN CURRY as Newton
GLYNIS BROOKS as Dawn
CARMEL CRYAN as Carmen
Writer: Roy Clarke
Producer and Director: Alan J.W. Bell
Network and Production Companies: BBC-2
Duration: 6×30 minute episodes
Aired From: Pilot – 27 November 1984 and Series – 15 May – 19 June 1986
Christmas Princess (UP 2017, Nicole Munoz, Zak Santiago)
Christmas Princess is the true story of Donaly Marquez who, through a childhood of neglect and abuse, achieved her dream of becoming a rose bowl princess. An inspirational story of resilience, strength and finding a family to call your own.
Nicole Muñoz as Donaly Marquez
Rosa Blasi as Sara
Zak Santiago as Ignacio Marquez
Olivia Steele Falconer as Emily Marquez
Jaedon Siewert as Abraham Marquez
Lina Renna as Young Donaly
Paloma Kwiatkowski as Chloe
Ty Wood as Trent
Pendo Muema as Monique
Kalyn Miles as Maria
Kaaren de Zilva as Roberta
Garfield Wilson as Dr. Miller
Clay St. Thomas as Judge #1
Patti Allan as Judge #2
Natalie von Rotsburg as Judge #3
Director: Allan Harmon
Writer: Tracy Andreen
Network and Production Companies: UP
Duration: 1×120 minute episode
Aired From: Sunday 10 December 2017
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